...in the fullest sense of the word. Calm Things by Shawna Lemay is the most beautifully written, generous and honest collection of personal essays that I've read in ages. Thought-provoking to say the least. Because the clean, pitch-perfect prose never calls attention to itself, I was left looking at a world through Lemay's eyes and with Lemay's clear, wide-angled vision. What I saw was a well-rounded world. A moving world. A world I both know and don't know.
In my last post I had described this book as a gift from me to me, but I didn't know then how true this was. Amazingly enough, the second last essay in the book, titled "Of Coffee Pots, Tea Cups, Asparagus and the Like," actually looks closely at "the gift." I must admit, though I've been the lucky recipient of countless gifts, the matter of giving and receiving is, unfortunately, something to which I've given little more than superficial thought. Lemay refers to a number of books throughout, but it's the books mentioned in this essay that I will seek first. And the nests! Because of this essay I know I'll never look at a nest in the same way again. And that's a good thing.
While I'm certainly no expert on still life, I am a visual artist and a writer, and it's the world of the artist and writer that Lemay presents that rings so true. In her words I found a clearer reflection of myself. Of my way of life. Of my joys, my frustrations, my dreams. And when one sees such a clear reflection, one can't help but look more closely.
I wanted to read this book slowly. Take my time. Think. But no, I couldn't put it down. I finished reading Calm Things last night before I went to bed. So there I was in the wee hours, glowing in the dark, still thinking, feeling more alive and more at peace than I have in quite some time.
This morning I looked at the title essay again and gave more thought to what Lemay says about details and connections. Oddly enough, when I took a break to refill my coffee and check Facebook, I saw that I'd received an invitation to a reading featuring Tim Lilburn, along with Shawna Lemay and Kimmy Beach on Monday, March 23, 2009. The evening will begin at 8:00 pm and will take place in Room 101 of Michael Hall at St. Peter's College, Muenster, SK. I hope the weather is good. It's a long way, but I want to go. I know and admire the work of all three and have met Lilburn and Beach before. It would be wonderful to hear them again. And it would be wonderful to finally meet Lemay and hear her read from this incredible book.
Now I'll go dust my studio. It's calling. I think I'm ready. It's time.